The Red Bridge is an iconic fixture in Keremeos and is the sole survivor of the five bridges that crossed the Similkameen River, built in 1907-1909. (Nancy Arbuckle Facebook)

Arsonists attempt to torch historic Red Bridge in Keremeos

Crews also put out a grass fire that had started from a burning barrel

  • Aug. 5, 2021 12:00 a.m.

A fire was set on the historic Red Bridge west of Keremeos on Thursday.

The fire was smoldering on one of the beams on the bridge when the fire department arrived, confirmed Keremeos fire chief Jordy Bosscha.

“It was a small little fire smoldering when our crews got there. They put it out and tagged it for the road maintenance company to come take a look at it,” said Bosscha.

RCMP were made aware of the situation and attended as well.

READ MORE: Keremeos woman charged with arson makes court appearance

Social media reports have claimed that there were two young men who started the fire shortly before it was reported, but that has not been confirmed by police.

Const. James Grandy, media relations officer with the Penticton detachment, confirmed that there had been an attempt to commit arson on the bridge by multiple suspects.

While returning from the bridge to the fire hall, Keremeos fire crews were called to a grass fire that had spread from a burning barrel.

“It got away on them and turned into about a five-metre by five-metre grass fire,” said Bosscha. “Luckily it wasn’t windy like it usually is.”

Being nearby allowed them to get quickly on scene and extinguish the second fire before it could spread much further. Burning is banned across the province. It’s not known if the property owner was fined or not.

The History of the Red Bridge

The Red Bridge is the sole survivor of the five bridges that crossed the Similkameen River on the railway jointly built by the Vancouver Victoria and Eastern Railway and Navigation Company and the Great Northern Railway.

Work on the line began in 1907 starting from Oroville through Keremeos and reached Princeton in 1909. In 1926, the bridge was covered and painted red to help protect if from the weather and soon became known as the Red Bridge. In addition to passenger and freight service, the railway transported ore from the Nickel Plate and Mascot gold mines in Hedley, ice in the winter months from local lakes and coal from Princeton.

Passenger fare in those early years was four cents a mile. The last train to cross the Red Bridge was 1954. New cladding was completed in 2005 as a joint effort of the Keremeos Red Bridge committee, the RDOS and Ministry of Transportation.

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